Posts Tagged ‘Railroad passenger cars’

Ft.WRHS Acquires 2 Ex-PRR Passenger Cars

June 23, 2022

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars have been acquired by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society for excursion train use.

The cars are former sleepers Collinsville Inn and Franklin Inn that were built by the Budd Company in 1949.

The Pennsy converted them to coaches in 1963. The cars were donated to the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 2008. The Ft.WRHS acquired the cars from the Washington chapter.

The Collinsville Inn ran for a time on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Both cars now feature a PRR livery.

Each car is expected to be used on excursions of the Indiana Rail Experience, a series of trips to be pulled by former Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765.

Private Car Owners Talk with Amtrak About Policy Changes for Handling of PVs

April 5, 2018

At least they are talking. Amtrak executives spoke on Tuesday on a conference call with representatives of private railroad passenger cars who have decried a policy change by the nation’s passenger carrier that has banned charter trains and specials, and made it more difficult for car owners to move their cars on Amtrak trains.

Amtrak management told the car owners that the policy change followed a review of carrying private rail cars on Amtrak trains and how that affects the on-time performance of the trains as well as the passenger company’s finances.

During the call, Amtrak officials reportedly reiterated their intent to cease adding and removing private cars at most intermediate points.

“If you want cars switched at every station, we can’t do that,” an Amtrak representative said during Tuesday’s call. “We are interested in your thoughts about what you think is reasonable and consistent with the mission of not delaying trains.”

Amtrak officials didn’t rule out carrying private cars, but seemed to suggest that it would prefer to do that at route endpoints because en route switching can delay a train.

The private car groups made suggestions that could improve on-time performance, but preserve midpoint pickups, such as requiring private car operators to have their own qualified mechanical personnel to help facilitate midpoint switching, or to add private cars to front of trains to eliminate extra switching moves.

The private car owners also suggested having their cars operate on a generator until reaching a station with sufficient dwell time to allow head-end power to be connected.

The meeting notes were distributed to members of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance.

Among the mid-point Amtrak stops at which private cars are sometimes  added or removed are Lamy, New Mexico; Huntington, West Virginia; Denver; St. Paul, Minnesota; Whitefish, Montana; Charlotte, North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Jacksonville, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Milwaukee; Cleveland; St. Louis; San Antonio, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Amtrak indicated during the call that it is reviewing the fees it charges private car owners to haul their cars.

The private car owners said that in particular they want Amtrak to better explain what CEO Richard Anderson meant when he wrote in a memo to Amtrak employees that specials and charters were not meeting Amtrak’s expectations of “fully allocated profitable margin[s].”

At one point the private car owners expressed a willingness to pay double the actual cost of moving private cars on Amtrak.

The conference call did not discuss special trains, but Amtrak has refused to handle a planned AAPRCO train, the Black Hills Special, that was to have operated from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Denver on May 17-22.

Circus Train Auction Bids Being Solicited

March 2, 2017

The equipment that makes up the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus train fleet is being sold at auction.

circus-logoFeld Entertainment, which owns the circus train, is seeking bid by March 10 for its fleet of more than 120 railcars and other assets.

The circus train will continue in operation through May when the circus is set to give its last performances in Rhode Island and New York.

Winning bidders will take possession of their equipment at a to be announced location in late May.

AAPRCO Special Rolls Through Cleveland

October 3, 2016


On Sunday morning a seven-car American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners special went west through Cleveland.

The special consisted of Amtrak P42DC’s 134 and 190; Pennsylvania 120; Juniata Terminal’s Warrior Ridge; Morristown and Erie’s Alexander Hamilton; former New York Central 43, Mount Vernon; former Pullman Pacific Home; and former NYC Babbling Brook.

I caught the special going through Berea and thought it looked somewhat like the Great Steel Fleet that the New York Central ran in the postwar era.

I probably should have gone to a more representative location such as Olmsted Falls with the depot but sometimes you take what you can get.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon




Bankrupt Columbus Foundry That Made Railroad Car Components Sold, Not Expected to Reopen

August 19, 2016

A Columbus foundry that made products for the railroad industry will not reopen following its sale during bankruptcy proceedings.

Columbus Castings, which specialized in making parts for rail passenger cars, laid off its 800 employees last May after its parent company, Constellation Enterprises, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

columbus castingsIn announcing the bankruptcy filing, Constellation had cited weak demand for rail-car components, an aging facility and ongoing legal issues with state and federal environmental regulators.

At one point, A New York based private equity firm had said it would buy Columbus Castings plant on Parsons Avenue and reopen it.

But it was unable to reach a deal with Constellation and now the site of Columbus Castings has been sold to Reich Brothers, Inc., which has offices in White Plains, New York, and Los Angeles.

A Delaware bankruptcy court judge has approved the sale, which netted $29.7 million.

Reich Brothers has indicated it wanted the foundry for its real estate. It announced earlier this week that it would develop the site into an environmentally-friend mixed use development.

The primary component made at Columbus Castings was rail-car undercarriages, some of which are made nowhere else in the United States.

“This is a supplier that’s been around for more than a hundred years, and they make a good product,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. “Amtrak and commuter-rail authorities depend on this. So it’s going to be a difficult thing.”

Columbus Castings had been making parts for Nippon Sharyo, which is building rail passenger cars in Illinois that are expected to be used in Amtrak corridor service in the Midwest and on the West Coast.

Several vendors who supplied parts to Columbus Castings are still owed money and are unlikely to be paid.

In 2015, Columbus Castings had $92 million in sales and a payroll of $34 million. The company had hoped to attract government support to keep the foundry open.

Joe Blaney, the chief financial officer of Columbus Castings. was disappointed that the foundry will apparently not reopen.

“I have stuck with this company and this bankruptcy process to the bitter end because I firmly believe it is in everyone’s best interest to keep this company alive,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “Personally, I am not a fan of tearing apart a company for profit, especially one that has a heartbeat.

“Railroads are not going away, and are not changing the technology by which they construct and use locomotives and rail cars. With the intellectual property (patents) Columbus Castings holds on various rail products, there will always be sales ready for the taking.”

Passenger Car Returns ‘Home’ to SW Pa. Group

August 20, 2015

A passenger car once donated by a southwest Pennsylvania historical society is coming back home.

The Greene County Historical Society had given the narrow gauge coach from the Waynesburg & Washington Railroad to the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association.

The Connecticut group had planned to restore the car and use it on a short-line railroad that it maintains.

But that didn’t happen and efforts to sell the car were unsuccessful. So the group that had given away the car years ago agreed to take it back.

The Pennsylvania society had rescued the car in 1965 but was unable to care for it so it donated it the next year to the Connecticut group.

The car was built by the Jackson & Sharp Company in Wilmington, Delaware, and retired from service in 1929. On the W&W it carried roster number 6.

The W&W shut down in 1933, by which time it had been acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The PRR had converted the W&W track to standard gauge in order to reach coal mines in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Greene Historical Society officials say the coach will be restored for use as exhibit space and will be displayed with W&W 2-6-0 No. 4 at the society’s facility in Waynesburg

As Rail Cars for Michigan Commuter Services Sit, Some Question Spending Millions on Leasing Them

February 7, 2015

They sit in waiting in Owosso, Mich., but aren’t likely to see any use for at least two more years.

Five years ago the Michigan Department of Transportation leased 23 bi-level ex-Metra commuter rail cars for use in commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor, and between Ann Arbor and Howell.

But the cars have yet to operate and are costing Michigan taxpayers $1.1 million a year.

In the meantime, the cost of starting up the commuter service is nearly $12 million and rising.

Some Michigan lawmakers are concerned about the expenditures .

“They’re betting on something that might not even come to fruition,” said Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, who is minority vice-chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“I’m mad,” Lane said. “If we have these dollars to peel off, we should be fixing the roads. For MDOT to jump so far out front on this is concerning.”

Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, said he doesn’t want to say much until he has more information on the contract.

The deal was signed during the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, but amended four times during the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican — each time to increase the contract’s maximum cost.

“Any lease that we’re not using for something does concern me,” Hansen said. “I need to find out at the end of the day what are their plans, what is the time frame, when are the cars going to be used.”

Tim Hoeffner, director of MDOT’s Office of Rail, agreed that the commuter rail project is “costing us more money than we wished it would.”

“I’m not going to try and spin this,” Hoeffner told the Detroit Free Press. “Would we have liked to have gotten the service up and running sooner? Absolutely. Would we have liked to have timed the lease and the overhaul of the equipment to better fit with the start of the services? Absolutely.”

But Hoeffner said he doesn’t think MDOT made a mistake because there is a long lead time need to get equipment.

He said MDOT was correct to acquire equipment before other needed items were in place.

Hoeffner said a poor economy kept the commuter rail services from starting more quickly.

He said that the project has been a boost to Michigan workers and businesses because much of the money spent to renovate the cars was spent in-state.

“Monday morning quarterbacking, hindsighting this, yes, we could have done a lot of things differently,” Hoeffner said. “Based on the available information, and based on the estimated risks, we made sound decisions,” and “time will tell … whether or not we have failed miserably or been great visionaries.”

The 1950s and 1960s-era cars are owned by Great Lakes Central Railroad. MDOT has paid $7.6 million to overhaul the cars and another $2.7 million in lease charges. The cars were previously used in Chicago and sold by Metra.

The per-car lease costs more than doubled in 2013 and 2014 as refurbishments were completed and the cars were certified as rail-worthy.

The contract with MDOT required it to start paying “in-service” rates that total about $3,000 a day, even though the cars are just sitting in a yard in Shiawassee County about 30 miles northeast of Lansing.

MDOT has paid another $1.1 million to its consultant on the rail car project, Pennsylvania-based Quandel.

Hoeffner said it can cost $2 million to $3 million per car to purchase new cars, and $400,000 to $500,000 per car to purchase new equipment.

On that basis, the cost of the project — which now approaches $500,000 per car when renovation costs are included — is not out of line, he said.

“Without having firm dates as to when these services are going to start and what all of that is, I believe that it is prudent to question what we’ve done,” Hoeffner said.

The cars are sitting because there is no funding or operator for the commuter operation. Also, the required environmental studies are not complete.

The tracks to be used between Detroit and Ann Arbor service, which are also used by Amtrak, are about to undergo a rebuilding.

The $11.4 million that MDOT has spent to date on the commuter rail project has come from Michigan’s $300-million Comprehensive Transportation Fund. The money in this fund comes largely from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, and is mainly used to pay for transit and rail.

Under state law, at least 10 percent of appropriations from the fund must be allocated for intercity passenger services, which includes rail projects.

Michael Frezell, a spokesman for MDOT, said the project money came from that allocation and could not have been spent on roads, although it could have been spent on other eligible projects such as a bus service between two Michigan cities or another rail-related project.

The project costs are small when compared to the $1.2 billion that Gov. Snyder wants to raise for additional road repairs through a May 5 ballot proposal that would raise the sales tax to 7 percent.

MDOT could have leased and overhauled just 15 of the 23 cars and Hoeffner said that in hindsight it would have made sense to have done that.

He estimates that only five cars, including a spare, need to be allocated to a Howell-Ann Arbor commuter service.

That service, he said, is likely to go into operation before the Ann Arbor-Detroit service.

MDOT has been moving the cars around for display in places such as Ann Arbor and Dearborn to drum up interest in the commuter services.

The state agency is also looking for temporary and short-term uses for some of the cars.

One ideas is to assign them to Amtrak’s Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, which MDOT helps to underwrite. 

Hoeffner said that would require the cars to have handicapped-accessible restrooms. Initially, Hoeffner opted to refurbish the cars without restrooms but has since reconsidered.

MDOT recently spent $300,000 to equip two of the cars with handicap restrooms and may pay to put similar restrooms in other cars.

Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler has also been looking into the commuter rail expenditures and will report to the Legislature soon.

Carmine Palombo, deputy executive director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, has been working with local officials on developing the commuter rail services.

He said there’s enthusiasm for the projects all along the proposed lines, but the best bet for the Detroit-Ann Arbor service might be if the new Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan decides to include the proposed service in a four-county transit-related ballot proposal planned for November 2016.

Rail upgrades are under way for the next two construction seasons on the state-owned former Michigan Central route to Ann Arbor.

Hoeffner and Palombo said they don’t want to start commuter rail service during that construction period because it could cause delays.

“The real key on both of these services is that without a commitment from the local communities to provide funding to help cover the operating deficits of the service, they’re not going to get moving,” Palombo said.

Michael Cicchella, a former supervisor of Northfield Township in Washtenaw County, said he worked hard on promoting the commuter service in 2007 and 2008 before stepping aside in frustration.

He cited resistance in Livingston County for the project not proceeding when he thought it should have.

Cicchella said commuter rail service between Howell and Ann Arbor could save lives by taking thousands of commuters a day off heavily congested U.S. 23.